Plants that recover dangerous chemicals from the byproducts of oil refineries, and then process those chemicals into substances used to manufacture everything from plastics to food preservatives, can be found throughout the Houston area. Although chemical plants operate without serious incidents 99.99% of the time, there have been several major chemical plant explosions and fires where chemical plant workers were injured or even killed. The Houston chemical plant explosion lawyer at The Doan Law Firm represents workers injured by such explosions.
Causes of Chemical Plant Explosions
It is rare to find a single, isolated cause of a chemical plant explosion. A review of investigations following previous explosions shows that most chemical plant explosions were due to some combination of equipment failure and human error.
Because chemical processing often requires subjecting potentially dangerous substances to extreme temperatures at high pressures, it is critically important that each piece of equipment used in a chemical plant be properly constructed and then closely monitored for signs of failure. If a piece of equipment fails and causes a chemical plant worker to suffer an injury, the plant’s owner could be found liable and ordered to pay damages to the injured worker.
Due to the extremes of temperature and pressure involved, as well as the presence of potentially dangerous substances, computers control many chemical plant processes. However chemical plant workers are responsible for making sure those computers are working properly. If a chemical plant worker makes a mistake or an error in judgment and an explosion occurs, the chemical plant’s owner may be found liable for any injuries that occur.
Types of Chemical Explosion Injuries
Chemical plant explosion injuries usually fall into one of five broad, but often overlapping, types:
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Chemical plant explosions often cause structures such as walls, stairs, and elevated observation towers to collapse, causing workers to fall considerable distances. As a result of their falls, workers can suffer injuries that range from minor cuts and sprains to multiple fractures.
Thermal (“heat”) burns are the result of exposure to the high temperatures accompanying the fires that often occur following chemical plant explosions. Thermal burns can vary from minor first and second-degree redness and blistering to “full-thickness” third-degree burns that will require months of painful treatment in a hospital’s special Burn Unit.
Many chemical plant processes require the use of strong acids. If acid contacts human skin, it can quickly damage that is similar to a third-degree thermal burn. Unlike a thermal burn, where tissue damage ceases once the victim is removed from danger, chemical burns will continue to cause damage until either the chemical process runs out of energy or until the burn agent is neutralized.
Since practically all chemical plant explosions are immediately followed by a fire, lung injury due to smoke inhalation or inhalation of toxic fumes frequently complicate other injuries. In fact, many chemical plant explosion victims will survive their initial injuries but will eventually succumb to lung damage.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Everyone has heard of PTSD, the combination of physical and psychological symptoms that can occur in combat veterans. Medical professionals now recognize that PTSD can develop after automobile and truck accidents, sexual assault, near-drowning, and in victims who survive major trauma. PTSD is notoriously difficult to treat and can last for the lifetime of a chemical plant explosion victim!
Compensation for Chemical Plant Explosion Injuries
It is a basic point of law that someone who is injured by the negligence of another is entitled to receive compensation (“recover damages”) for their injuries. Although each chemical plant explosion injury case is unique, an injured worker may be able to recover three types of damages: economic damages, non-economic damages, and punitive damages.
Economic damages are those that have a “dollars and cents” value. Examples of economic damages are:
Salary or hourly wages while unable to work following an injury.
The costs of all current and anticipated future medical expenses related to a worker’s injuries.
Payment for all expenses related to rental or purchase of medical equipment, including any modifications to an injured worker’s home necessary to accommodate a worker’s injuries.
Non-economic damages compensate an injured worker for losses that are difficult to measure in monetary terms. Non-economic damages can include:
The “pain and suffering” experienced by an injured worker, including the emotional distress suffered by family members.
Compensation for a worker’s inability ability to fully participate in family social events such as, weddings or graduation ceremonies.
Loss of the worker’s ability to fully contribute to making important family decisions.
Texas law allows a court to award of punitivedamages. In the context of a chemical plant explosion, punitive damages mean exactly that: damages that are awarded to punish a chemical plant’s owner for negligence in allowing conditions that led to a chemical plant explosion to develop. Although the Texas legislature has “capped” (limited) the amount of punitive damages that can be awarded, depending on the total amount of economic and non-economic damages awarded, punitive damages can be quite substantial!
Regardless of the types of injuries sustained by a worker, chemical plant explosion injuries can be very expensive to treat. Although injured chemical plant workers are automatically eligible for Worker’s Compensation benefits, those benefits don’t cover all expenses and lost income.
Aside from being struck by lightning or being damaged by natural disasters such as Hurricane Harvey, most chemical plant explosions are caused by carelessness on the part of the plant’s owner.
In law, such carelessness is called negligence. If you can show that a chemical plant owner’s negligence led to your injury, you have the right to file a lawsuit asking a court to order the plant’s owner to pay you damages.
From a legal perspective, chemical plant explosion injury cases can be very complex matters. In addition to being legally complex, a complete investigation of a chemical plant explosion is very expensive! Since investigating a chemical plant explosion accident is beyond the capabilities of chemical plant explosion victims, you need to contact a law firm with experience in properly handling such cases. In Houston, you can find such a chemical plant explosion accident lawyer at The Doan Law Firm.
Speak to a Houston Chemical Plant Explosion Lawyer Today
When you contact our firm, there is never a charge of any kind for us to review facts in your chemical plant explosion injury case or for you to speak with our chemical plant explosion lawyer. After discussing your injuries with our chemical plant explosion lawyer, if you decide to file a Houston personal injury lawsuit and that you would like for us to represent you in court, we are willing to take on the costs of preparing your chemical plant explosion injury case for trial in exchange for an agreed-upon percentage of the final settlement we are prepared to win for you.
At The Doan Law Firm, we don’t plan to just win your oil refinery explosion injury case: we plan to win big and have a proven record of making sure our clients are awarded every penny of compensation they are due!